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Protesters need to adjust focus

The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s not just the Nets, and it’s not just eminent domain. Whether Bruce Ratner has his way with us, in transforming Brooklyn from its status as a perpetually evolving multi-textured urban quilt into a sterile Manhattanized version of cul-de-sac suburbia, will depend more on our collective vision than on our individual pocketbooks.

That Ratner would pay handsomely to silence critics should never have been in doubt. With the club of eminent domain in one hand and a checkbook in the other, the homeowners on Ratner’s site would of course choose to live in luxury somewhere else than sustain high-risk combat against Empire State Development Corp. chief Charles Gargano and Gov. George Pataki.

Atlantic Yards opponents were thus precisely wrong in making eminent domain the most apparent source of their discontent.
The larger issue, the communal one, transcends those living on-site and even nearby.

Brooklyn’s success — historically and today — is due in large part to our having avoided the walled mega-block syndrome that is Ratner’s tool to wealth. Neighborhoods prosper — and sometimes decline in order to regenerate and prosper anew — organically; urban renewal’s bulldozer is prosperity’s foe.

The soulless utopia Bruce Ratner would impose won’t please and won’t generate a widening swath of prosperity. For evidence, consider Metrotech and its immediate environs; compare that massively subsidized dead zone in our midst to what has happened throughout such Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods as Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens, just slightly removed from that “urban campus.”

Ratner is certainly capable of adequately revisiting his design, and such modifications would be welcomed here. But his track record doesn’t offer much hope that he will.


Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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